And what a beautiful Tuesday it is.
That’s me above, peering into a display case in the Rusk County Community Library, shelves of books mirrored in the background. I came here in search of internet, since our internet at home is down and I have business to attend to.
Important Business. (Clears throat and looks important.) I promise you I am not here watching You Tube videos or meandering around social media. This is important stuff. Really.
Just a couple odds and ends I want to tell you:
First, this is a detail of the quilt I received from my church family at our end-of-year school hot dog roast. I was so surprised, honored, and proud. My mom helped pick out the fabric. My grandma sewed it together. The mother of a couple of my students quilted it. And the names of the families at our church, as well as the names of my individual students, are written on it.
Surely every day that I live I am blessed.
Second, I did a new and interesting thing this weekend. I attended a small black church on the West Side in Chicago. Bethel Community Mennonite. It was a good experience for me. I am used to standing out because of the style of my dress and little white “cap,” not so much because of the color of my skin. At Bethel, both things made me conspicuous.
But it was a small church, probably fewer than twenty people in attendance that morning. That part was familiar. And the friendly smiles and hugs and handshakes and the public welcome from the pulpit felt familiar also. Small churches are like that. They love visitors. They love to make visitors feel welcome.
Some of the songs were also familiar, though their style of singing was very different from my own church, where we have four-part harmony, a cappella, which we sing sitting straight-faced on our benches. At Bethel, loud piano and drums surrounded me, soaked into me, made me want to tap, to clap, to get up and MOVE.
The sermon also was somewhat familiar and somewhat strange. The familiar parts were the same Bible, the same Jesus, the same Christian concepts I know and love. The different parts—well, for one thing, the pastor was originally from Ghana and spoke with an accent that made him interesting to listen to. He wore a long, white robe instead of the black, square-necked, plain suit the ministers at my church wear. He moved around with his mic, asked us questions, asked for “Amens,” got up close to interact with individual church members, shouted sometimes. The pastors at my church stand behind a pulpit on a podium and stay there for the duration of the sermon.
Just between you and me, I prefer the Ghana pastor’s way. It’s more interesting and more fun. No sleeping allowed.
Something else familiar happened to me at the little black church on the West Side of Chicago. I felt a deep, delightful emotion well up within me, a depth of feeling that brought tears to my eyes. This has happened to me before when I am far away from home with people who are culturally very different from me, and I hear them speak and teach and testify of the same love for Jesus, the same Bible teaching, the same commitment to the Gospel that I know. This moves me to my core.
I praise God for this: that in a multitude of cultures in a multitude of countries around the world, there are people united in that sacred, joyful bond of commitment to Christ.
We call it the Church. We call it Family. We call it the Body of Christ.